Friday, November 16, 2007

Sell the Jersey Turnpike?

One of the hottest topics here in NJ Politics these days is a proposal to sell the NJ Turnpike to private companies. Under the proposal, funds from the sale would be used to pay off the state's massive debt (which is itself a hidden tax on residents). But for the fact that the funds will be used to pay off debt rather than for reinvestment in infrastructure, this is exactly the sort of policy that libertarians have been suggesting for years. (Also see this clip from the Drew Carey Project). Moreover, this is the type of "privatization" that avoids crony capitalism and actually leaves things to the market.

As you might expect, one political party is up in arms about this privatization, complaining that privatization will mean higher costs to consumers, and will damage the people of NJ. But here's the strange thing: the party proposing the privatization is the Democrats, led by finance wiz Gov. Corzine; the party raising the standard arguments against privatization is the Republicans. WTF?

If indeed the privatization results in higher tolls, then frankly I'm willing to pay them- that just means that I'm currently paying below market value for the right to drive on the Turnpike, and that the Turnpike is currently costing the state more revenue than it generates. If it costs more than it generates, then that money is coming out of my pocketbook anyways in the form of higher taxes.

This whole debate really just shows how political partisanship has become more important than actual ideology/governing philosophy. A Democrat is proposing the plan, so the normally market-friendly Republicans have decided it is the most evil idea in history. Meanwhile, the normally market-averse, anti-privatization Democrats have decided to jump on board with it. This sounds an awful lot like my argument that political parties have more of an effect on interest groups than interest groups have on the political parties, doesn't it?